Thursday, March 30, 2006

Mahavakyas from Vedanta -- 2

Thanks to the notes in the introduction to Vivekachudamani by Prof. John Grimes (pages 28 and 52), I could get the references for the Mahavakyas from Vedanta.

  1. Prajnanam Brahma: meaning "The Absolute is Consciousness". This Mahavakya is from Aitareya Upanishad, 3.1.3 of Rig Veda.

  2. Ayam Atma Brahma: meaning "The Self is Absolute". This Mahavakya is from Mandukya Upanishad, 2.7, Atharava Veda.

  3. Tat tvam asi: meaning "That thou art". This Mahavakya is from Chandogya Upanisad, 6.8.7, Sama Veda.

  4. Aham Brahmasmi: meaning "I am the Absolute". This Mahavakya is from Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.10, Yajur Veda.

Also Prof. Grimes refers to the following verses from Vivekachudamani (V): 162, 204, 251-65, 270, 281, 284, 305, 334. Also, in the same book (page 29), Prof. Grimes refers to some other passages from Upanishads as ones that support the above Mahavakyas. They are the following:

  1. Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma: meaning "Everything is Brahman". This is from Chandogya Upanishad, 3.14.1, from Sama Veda.

  2. Satyam, Jnanam Anantam Brahma: meaning "Brahman is Existence-absolute , Knowledge-absolute, Infinite-absolute". This is from Taittareiya Upanishad, 2.1 from Yajur Veda.

Also, Prof. Grimes refers to the following verses from Vivekachudamani to support his argument: 154, 227, 395, 413, 466, 475.

I have a previous post on the same subject (some references in the previous post are possibly incorrect).
My previous first post on the book. Read the rest of this entry >>

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Of Bogus Advatins and Bogus Christians

A conversation with Al (who is a christian, and with whom I discuss Advaita and similar stuff, over email):

[Al wrote]
im running into what i call bogus advaitins on the net. they call themselves nondualists yet believe we cant call ourselves god until we clear up our karma or have the moksa experience. i say its unconditional tho those who call themselves god can function much better as god. when i first meet hindus i ask them if theyre god. if they say yes unconditionally i shake their hand

[My reply]

Very good idea!

Hopefully you ask all "christians" if they have love for everyone -- including their enemies, like radical islamists-- and refuse to shake hands who have inhibitions in loving their enemies.

Later (thankfully) sense prevailed. Read the rest of this entry >>

Food from Chandogya

From the translation of Chandogya by Shri Radhakrishnan (VII.9.1, page 477) (an online edition of the translation by Max Muller):

therefore, if anyone does not eat for ten days, even though he might live, yet, verily he becomes a non-seer, a a non-hearer, a non-thinker, a non-understander, a non-doer, a non-knower. But on the entrance of food, he becomes a seer, he becomes a hearer, he becomes a thinker, he becomes an understander, he becomes a doer, he becomes a knower. Mediate on food.
[annam upassveti]

Instead of stopping here, the dialogue continues. In the next verse (VII.9.2),

Venerable Sir, is there anything greater than food?
Yes, there is something greater than food.
Do Venerable Sir, tell me that.

The dialogue goes on further, to equate water, heat, ether, and life as Brahman.

PS: Let not anyone stay away from food without any reason, and let not anyone take verse VII.9.1 (the first verse above) as a justification for their gluttony.

PPS: Somehow I cannot empathize more with this verse VII.9.1 than on a Ekadasi day!

Note added on 03/26: The dialogue between Svetaketu Aranyaka and his father Uddalaka, from Chandogya (VI.2.1 to VI.7.1) (in pages 454-465) also emphasizes the importance of physical needs. I am quoting from Shri Radhakrishnan's translation beginning at VI.7.1 and page 454:

  • ...
  • VI.7.1: For fifteen days do not eat any food. Drink water at will. Breath which consists of water will not be cut off from one who drinks water.

  • VI.7.2: Then for fifteen days, he did not eat any food; and then he approached him saying, 'what sir, shall I say?' The Rig Verses, my dear, the Yajus formulas and the Saman chants. He replied: 'They donot occur to me, Sir'

  • VI.7.3: He said to him: Just as my dear, of a great lighted fire, a single coal of the size of a firefly may be left which would not thereafter burn much, even so, my dear, of your sixteen parts only one part is left and so with it you do not apprehend (remember) the Vedas. Eat. Then you will understand me.

  • VI.7.4: Then he ate and approached his father. Then whatsoever he asked him, he answered it all.

  • VI.7.5: To him, he said, 'Just as my dear, of a great lighted fire, a single coal of the size of a firefly may be left, and made to blaze up by covering it with straw and with it the fire would thereafter burn much"

  • VI.7.6: So, my dear, of your sixteen parts only one part was left, and that, when covered with food, blazed up. With it, you now apprehend the Vedas. For, my dear, the mind consists of food, and the breath consists of water and speech consists of hear. Then he understood what he said; he understood it all.
  • ...

Of couse, each sub-chapter ends with the father Uddalaka telling Svetaketu, the mahavakya of Chandogya:

tat tvam asi svataketo ...

I have a previous post on Mahavakyas of Vedanta(warning: it still needs some polishing). Read the rest of this entry >>

Thursday, March 23, 2006

A Vivekachudamani Review

I wrote to Prof. Grimes saying the anecdotes in the Ganapathi book moved me (and my friends) a lot, he replied

Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2006 09:39:17 -0500
From: John A Grimes
Thank you. There is a wonderful book review of the V. in the latest issue of Philosophy East West.

The review he is talking about is titled The Vivekacūdāmani of Śankarācārya Bhagavatpāda: An Introduction and Translation (a PDF link) by Berger, Douglas L. in Philosophy East West 55.4 page. The review ends with:

The translation itself is a testament to Grimes’ surpassing Sanskrit skills and thorough knowledge of Veda¯ntic textual exegesis. The unusually lucid presentation of the Sanskrit slokas is rendered with exactness and eloquent clarity in the English. The accompanying Upanisadic cross-referencing and Sanskrit-English lexicon of key terms will prove themselves enormously helpful to lay readers, students, and scholars. In his efforts to make this classic speak to spiritual seekers, modern readers, and scholars alike, and thus to reveal its perennial richness and multivalence, Grimes has resoundingly succeeded.

My previous post on the book. Read the rest of this entry >>

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Tat Tvam Asi (That Thou Art)

From chapter "Who am I?" (page 139) from the Ganapati by Prof. Grimes:

Once many years ago, I had a "chance" meeting with an Indian saint. He asked, in broken English, "Been India?" Since I had been in India for a number of years, the best, most easily demonstrable answer was to wobble my head in the characteristic side to side manner known to most Indians. The moment he saw that "wobble", he got a big grin on his face, entered the room, and closed the door behind him. He asked me, "Who you?" Having lived in India and being used to this type of English and being young and polite I began to answer him, "I am John Grimes," but just as I reached the G of Grimes, he said "Bas, family name, who you?" (Bas is Hindi for "stop, enough.") Again, since I have lived in India and studied Indian thought, I very confidently and boldly began to reply, "I am the immortal Atman," but just as I reached the A of Atman, again he stopped me with another "Bas, book name, who you?" With the first "stop", he wiped out my physical body. With the second "stop", he wiped out my entire mental universe. What was left? With two small words, he had succeded in conveying to me that I was neither my physical body nor my mental knowledge. How to answer him? So I said, "I donot know." Quick as a wink, he responded, "Find out." I replied, "How?" He responded, "Not how, find out." Again I asked, "How?" He was holding a handkerchief in his hand and he opened his fingers and let the handkerchief drop to the ground and as it fell he said, "Let go." Again I asked, "How [to let go]?" He responded, "Not how, let go." And then he turned and left the room.

Almost twenty years passed before I learned that this monk supposedly did not speak English. How interesting! A person who did not speak English magnificiently managed to teach the Vedantic truth that one is neither one's body not one's thoughts, all in two words, As if that was not enough, he proceeded to teach me how to "find out who I really am" with another two words ("let go"). We all know how to let go, we do it every night when we go to sleep. We never ask out mother, "Mom, how do I go to sleep?" We just "let go" and sleep came. However, we become confused, disturbed, when someone asks us to "let go" of out preconceived notions as to who we are. Like this, we look for a technique in order to meditate or to find an answer to the question, Who am I? Read the rest of this entry >>

What are the seven great untenables?

What are the Seven Great Untenables? Prof. John Grimes seems to have a a book on it, and there seems to have been some discussion on advaitin mailing list on the same.

Answer: The following was posted in the advaitin mailing list.

THE SEVEN IMPOSSIBLE TENETS Ramanuja picks out what he sees as seven fundamental flaws in the Advaita philosophy for special attack: he sees them as so fundamental to the Advaita position that if he is right in identifying them as involving doctrinal contradictions, then Shankara's entire system collapses.

The post also says that they are the following:

  1. The nature of Avidya.
  2. The incomprehensibility of Avidya.
  3. The grounds of knowledge of Avidya.
  4. The locus of Avidya.
  5. Avidya's obscuration of the nature of Brahman.
  6. The removal of Avidya by Brahma-vidya.
  7. The removal of Avidya.

Read the great post. It is very comprehensive and is a good example of the maturity of the systems, as well as the attack on existing systems, in ancient India.
Continuation of the Sri Dakshinamurty Stotram in advaitin mailing list: In Part VI (first half) and Part VI (second half), Verse V of the stotram is discussed:

Deham praanamapi indriyaanyapi chalaam buddhim cha shunyam viduH
Stri-baala-andha-jadopamaastvahamiti bhraantaa bhrsham vaadinaH |
Tasmai Srigurumurtaye nama idam Sridakshinamurtaye ||

Here is link to previous posts (parts I to V).

Postscript (added on 03/27): Found the book The Seven Great Untenables by John. Grimes. Have a read a couple of chapters, but the attack of Sri Ramanujacharya on Sri Adi Shankara is amazing. The Seven Great Untenables form the first chapters of sri-bhashyam, a well known work of Sri Ramanuja, and as said above, attacks Adi Shankara's theory of Advaita (or non-duality) on the concept of avidya.

I advise to read the following post too. Read the rest of this entry >>

Monday, March 20, 2006


From page 92 on anada of Ganapati by Grimes:

The word modaka comes from the Sanskrit root mud (joy delight). The self is said to be the nature of existence (sat), consciousness (cit), bliss (ananda). One seeks bliss because one is of the nature of bliss. Nothing else will ultimately satisfy one that to experience that which one truly is.

Obtaining what one likes seemingly brings one joy. Thus Ganapati holds out the incentive and enticement of "giving one what one wants, so that ultimately one will want what he has to give." It is because one mistakenly looks for complete and lasting bliss in eternal things that one eventually becomes disappointed. Bliss is not "outside" but within. This should be self-evident with a little analysis. One and the same object does not provide one with the same quality or quantity of bliss at different times. Nor does it provide different individuals with the same bliss. If bliss were innate to an object, this should be the case. Further, it is because the fluctuations of the mind cease upon attaining one's desired goal that one feels a momentary joy. If one begins to long for piece of chocolate cake, one feels restless until that object is obtained. Mistakenly, one believes the joy that one feels upon putting that first piece of cake into one's mouth, comes from the cake. In reality, it comes from the quitening of the mind. No longer is the mind flickering, fluctuating flitting hither and yon demanding cake. The joy comes from this quitening of the mind and not from the seemingly simultaneous attainment of one's desired object.

How truly said!

The root of this analysis is of course the wonderful conversation in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad between Yagnavalkya and his wife, Maitreyi. I am quoting from the translation by Shri S. Radhakrishnan, II, 4-5, page 197:

Verily not for the sake of husband is the husband is the husband dear but a husband is dear for the sake of the Self. Verily not for the sake of the wife is the wife dear but the wife is dear for the sake of the Self. Verily not for the sake of the sons are the sons dear but the sons are dear for the sake of Self. Verily not for the sake of Brahminhood is brahminhood dear but brahminhood is dear for the sake of the Self. Verily not for the sake of kshatriyahood is kshyatriyahood is dear but kshatriyahood is dear for the sake of the Self. Verily not for the sake of worlds are the worlds dear but the worlds are dear for the sake of the Self. verily not for the sake of gods are the gods dear but the gods are dear for the sake of the Self. Verily not for the sake of the beings that the beings are dear but the beings are dear for the sake of the Self. Verily not for the sake of all is all dear but all is dear for the sake of the Self. Verily O Maitreyi, it the Self that should be seen, heard of, reflected on and meditated upon. Verily, by seeing of, by hearing of, by the thinking of, by the understanding of the Self, all this is known.

The first part in bold is quoted often in Raja Rao's Serpent and the Rope. Here is a link that gives the introduction to the principal upanishads by S.Radhakrishnan. Read the rest of this entry >>

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The day they were not out

This day in 2001: when Very Very Special and the Wall were the only humans before Tugga and his final frontier. This is the "this day that age" link.

Congrats to Rahul Dravid who is about to complete his 100th test match. Here is a very good interview and an overview of his his mental preparation(aptly titled "The making of the Wall") he is well known for. Read the rest of this entry >>

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Homepage of John Grimes

John Grimes is a professor in Michigan State University and author of the book on Vivekachudamani and Ganapathi. This is from the entry on Vivekachudamani in his publications page.

This book is the fruit of a lifetime of enquiry (jijñasa). Much reflection and discrimination (viveka) and detachment (vairagya) has flowed under the bridge. Friends, fellow well-wishers, and yes, even evil-eyed enemies have contributed much. Whom to single out? They all played their alloted parts and departed for places elsewhere. It seems so long ago that I was walking towards the Pakistan-India border station in the burning dust of summer. Rushing to greet me was a collage of odours comprised of fragrant flowers and rotting filth, of exotic spices and suffocating fumes, of incense and mysticism, of antiquity and modernity, and that land wherein wisdom breaks open hearts like tamarind rinds. Through the Khyber Pass - that unbelievable, almost untransversable ribbon of rock, and into the land of enchantment. A sannyasin met me as I crossed the border and said, "You imagine things and you so seriously ask about fulfillment. Life is too short to spend all of one's time analysing everything. Laugh with the barking dogs and welcome naked thoughts with open arms. Things don't just happen, they happen just. Where you come from, you imagine that things happen, perhaps (as his eyes twinkled). But never in Bharat. Bharat is not a place, but a state of being. Chance means that one does not know the law of things. Permutations and combinations, the whence and the wherefore. When thought, word, and deed are one, there are no chance occurances. Then, even a blade of grass does not grow by chance."
Read the rest of this entry >>

Algorithmic Problems in Polytope Theory

Link from Ziegler's homepage: Some algorithmic problems in polytope theory: AProPo. Read the rest of this entry >>

googling for Raja rao

I thought that that there may have been some interesting posts on Raja Rao in the newsgroups (or I was just trying to pass time). Either way, I searched in and found that there indeed were some interesting links.

Searching for "Raja Rao Serpent Rope" lead to many links. One link mentions the encounter of a person with Raja Rao in UT-Austin.

>Sanjiva Prasad wrote:
>This old master, based at UT Austin, is definitely older than 56!
>Probably a good 20-30 years older than that.

The old master was born in 1907, I think. He is about 85 now and quite cogent, though frail. His first novel, 'Kanthapura', was published in 1929, inspired by Gandhism. His latest novel is titled 'The Chessmaster and His Moves'.

He lives in a red sandstone house close by the campus. The lawn is unkempt and the street very quiet and narrow. On the door a yellow note was stuck. It simply said: "Raja Rao". He was expecting us. He answered the door himself, stooped and wrapped up in a dressing gown. He waved us into some chairs and apologized for making us sit in almost total darkness. "The light hurts my eyes", he said smiling. Upstairs, I heard someone walking about, the wooden floor amplifying the sound. "My wife Susan", he explained, "she is not feeling too well".

We didnt talk much about books. In fact, he did most of the talking, and he talked clearly and passionately, late into the evening. About Gandhi, Nehru, De Gaulle, Churchill, Malraux, Diego Rivera, and a whole galaxy of others. People whom he had met and known; legendary figures like Subhash Bose, whom he had shown around Paris while at the Sorbonne. He argued with feeling about the relevance of Gandhism, and with more than a hint of seriousness, about why monarchy was necessary in India; about how the Brahmins had betrayed the soul of India, and about how he had disavowed his own Brahminical heritage: casting the sacred thread of the twice-born into the Ganges at Benares.

Later, as we sat in the darkness of his living room, the shelves and the chairs overflowing with books, he talked about his spiritual quest: about the Buddha, Ramana Maharishi, Krishnamurti, and about his guru: Atmananda, a policeman turned Vedantin, in Travancore. His last novel had borne a quote from Atmananda: "I am the light in the perception of the world".

We accepted his invitation to visit again, as he showed us to the door. Next time, we will talk about Mathematics, we said, and the Novel, and Nagarjuna, and the decline of the erotic in Indian culture.

Nice encounter indeed!
Read the rest of this entry >>

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Grimes: Ganapati Song of the Self

I am only halfway through the book Ganapati: Song of the Self, but I am amazed by the way Grimes approaches to explain Ganapati in an entirely Advaitic way. The book is also replete with the various names and explanations of Ganapati. Read the rest of this entry >>

Friday, March 10, 2006

Maneesha Panchakam: Play of words

The library entry for the book by Swami Chinmaya Mission says also known as Man¯is¯apañcaka.. Of course man is apanchaka, as is beyond the five senses Read the rest of this entry >>

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Ramsey Theory

A set of good lecture notes on Ramsey Theory. More to come. Read the rest of this entry >>

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

A catchy line from a student's SOP

The essence of education is to learn, relearn, and possibly unlearn. Read the rest of this entry >>